The Brighton Area Fire Authority (BAFA) was honored last week when the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center presented it with the 2012 Leland Gayheart Fire Safety and Prevention Award.
The award was given in recogniztion of BAFA's expansive smoke alarm installation campaign that launched in October 2011 to ensure all Brighton area residents have functioning smoke alarms - free of charge - in their homes. Since program began, BAFA has installed or replaced more than 300 alarms in about 400 homes and has had four documented saves on alarms they have installed, according to Brighton Area Fire Lt. Lauren Brookins.
Brookins said the program went from passive to aggressive and proactive. Crews would check smoke alarms whatever the reason they were called to a scene, be it medical or fire alarm. Brookins said they have also been doing blitz attacks by going door-to-door in high risk areas.
"The award is very significant - it took our program and put it on top of all the programs in the state," she said. "It just shows our department is creating a model program and not just for the state. This program has been presented out in Virginia. It shows that taking the initiative like this has created such an positive impact on the community as a whole that other people want that in their communities as well."
BAFA used partnerships with community groups, schools and businesses such as Marco's Pizza to help identify homes in need of alarms. They also used social media networking to put the word out.
"This program has also made Brighton Area Fire staff more aware and educated in the importance of smoke alarms and that the impact of them not only protects the community and the citizens but themselves as well," Brookins said. "With how homes are being built today the escape time for residents to get out diminishes quickly. Working smoke alarms allows that first defense in early escape and survival."
Leland Gayheart was a 23-year-old Lake Orion firefighter that lost his life due to a devastating burn injury in 1991. As a tribute, the Leland Gayheart Prevention Award was created to encourage prevention programs within local fire departments. An honorarium is awarded annually to fire departments whose innovative efforts have demonstrated a statewide, countywide, or citywide impact on prevention and fire safety.
“Smoke alarms have been proven to reduce the risk of dying in a home fire by 50 percent,” said Karla Klas, Managing Director of Injury Prevention and Community Outreach at the U‐M Trauma Burn Center. “Yet as this campaign revealed, a shockingly high number of homes were found to have non‐functioning smoke alarms. We are proud to give this year’s Gayheart Award to the Brighton Area Fire Authority for their model community program that is saving lives and preventing devastating injuries.”
Brighton Fire Chief Mike O'Brian said they will use the $500 prize to assist with the cost of materials for upcoming smoke alarm installations in the Brighton community